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United Nations police deliver drinking water to residents of Sous-Roche village, outside Les Cayes, Haiti, Oct. 11, 2016.
Rebecca Blackwell/AP
Citizenship

Poverty, Disease, Uncertainty Await 59,000 Haitians Who Could Be Deported by 2019

The Trump administration announced Monday it will revoke temporary protection status for an estimated 59,000 Haitians living in the United States who fled the 2010 earthquake, the New York Times reports

These individuals left Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, which killed as many as 316,000 people — and were granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) by the US government. 

They will now have until July 2019 to return to Haiti, according to reports. If they don’t return, or seek other forms of legal protection, they could be deported. 

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“Based on all available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, Acting Secretary Duke determined that those extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist,” the State Department wrote in a statement. "Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated."

“Significant steps have been taken to improve the stability and quality of life for Haitian citizens, and Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens,” the statement added. 

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This decision comes just weeks after the Trump administration removed similar protections for 5,000 Nicaraguans living in the US under the same program. 

In all, more than 300,000 immigrants from 10 countries benefit from TPS, which President George H.W. Bush signed into law in 1990. These countries are Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Syria, Nepal, Honduras, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan. More than half of all TPS recipients come from El Salvador — one of the most violent countries in the world.  

In order to benefit from the status, immigrants must maintain a mostly clean criminal record and live in the US continuously after their resettlement, according to Pew Research Center.  

Read More: Trump Administration Gives Nicaraguan Refugees 1 Year to Go Back

The Trump administration’s decision ignored a request from the Haitian government to extend the status while Haiti continues to recover from damages incurred after Hurricane Matthew in the Fall of 2016, according to the New York Times report. According to the BBC, some parts of the country were 90% destroyed by the storm

Politicians on both sides of the aisle were critical of the administration’s decision: 

For the roughly 60,000 Haitians who benefit from temporary protection the thought of returning to Haiti is daunting. 

“The situation is not good in my country,” Gerald Michaud, a Haitian living in Brooklyn, told the New York Times. “I don’t know where I am able to go.”

According to the Miami New Times, roughly half of the 59,000 Haitians benefiting from TPS settled in Miami, and have given birth to over 10,000 children since coming to the states. These children, born US citizens, may be forced to leave the only country they’ve ever known — or grow up without their parents. 

“Thousands of Haitian TPS recipients have been living in the U.S. for an average of seven to 25 years," Marleine Bastien, who works at an immigration rights group in Miami, told the New Times. "To deport them and force them to leave behind their U.S.-born children will be a catastrophe of great magnitude."

Read More: Hurricane Matthew Is ‘Catastrophic’ for Haiti, Will Now Head for Cuba

Haiti is currently facing a cholera outbreak — and many lack access to clean water and sanitation services

Roughly one in four Haitians live in extreme poverty, making Haiti the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, the Guardian reports

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Many Haitians rely on remittances, or money sent back home from abroad, which make up about one-fourth of the country’s national income, according to the report in the Times. 

“It is in the best interest, national interest of the U.S., for the 50,000-plus Haitians to remain here,” Bastien said in an interview with Democracy Now! in May. 

If these Haitians stay in the US, she said, they will “continue to contribute, socially, financially and otherwise, and then keep these remittances flowing, so that people will not risk their lives to come here as a result of these…waves of deportation.”